Sunday, 1 March 2015

Great sightings as Spring approaches

There is an old saying...the harder you work, the luckier you get. I believe quite firmly in that, and a reward that has been earned by hard work or miles walked seems so much more worthwhile than a fortuitous one.

I can go months without getting good kingfisher sightings, even in areas noted for their presence they sometimes become quite secretive and difficult to find. This time of the year with little or no foliage on trees and bushes is one of the best to try to see them.

Rodley Nature Reserve near Leeds is a good place to see them, hides are located near the ponds the kingfishers are likely to use and some lovely perches have been placed so that watchers and photographers can see them clearly.

On previous visits we have had several sightings but no real close ones, a couple of weeks ago we had a real treat and an extended and detailed view.

I spotted one in a distant tree and we watched it carefully hoping it would fly in nearer the hide, maybe the finger crossing worked as this little female flew into some reeds not too far away.

The female has a red or orange underside to its bill, we watched as she moved to a small pond right in front of us.

The prey, probably minnow or stickleback can be clearly seen. To stun the fish prior to eating it is whacked several times on the perch before being devoured with a head back stance.

Several fish were captured and eaten as we sat quietly, frightened to break the magic spell!

Just before we left the male, dark coloured bill, arrived too, super day.

A short walk by the Leeds Liverpool canal near Gargrave brought us a few good sightings, as birds begin to move territories as the weather changes it is hard to predict what you may see.

A group of oystercatchers flew past...

Curlews are beginning to arrive back after their winter stay by the coasts...

Large flocks of fieldfares can be seen for a while yet before they return to Scandinavia, Iceland or Siberia.

Reed buntings are delightful little birds, many don't change territories but adapt their food sources according to what is available, dead seeds and wild flower heads seem to be favourites in winter, this female stayed close to us for quite a while.

We had a distant view of a great spotted woodpecker...

and a buzzard flew not too far away from us...

A lovely if muddy short walk.

I had a mission planned to spend some time with the dippers in Wharfedale, they are very vocal at this time of the year and I love to watch them "dipping" and emerging with their favourite caddis flies.

Finding a good spot on the riverbank I settled in for a patient vigil, knowledge from previous visits is vital because you can learn where they are likely to be and let them fly in to where you are rather than trying to approach when you see them and thereby causing disturbance.

It was not too long before I had a dipper just a few yards away...

It was soon after this when "the harder I work, the luckier I get" kicked in. I visit this river at least once every two weeks and have occasionally found otter spraints and heard rumours of sightings but nothing definite enough to expect to see any.

I was talking to a couple of fellow wildlife lovers when I spotted movement in the water, too much disturbance for any of the birds around here made my instinct levels rise. Watching through the binoculars I watched in amazement as a female otter with three youngsters hunted and played in the water, occasionally leaving the water on the far bank.

We enjoyed a lovely few minutes with them as they moved upstream before they dived and disappeared.

Living in this area all of my life I was just overwhelmed to know that these beautiful animals are around locally, nationally numbers are well on the increase due to the hard work of people who have had to be steadfast and determined in their aims.

For me, I just feel fortunate that I see such beautiful creatures as kingfishers and otters. If I were to divide the hours spent or miles walked by the successful days I would not like to think how low the percentage would be, but like mountaineers who wish to see inversions or brocken spectres you can increase your chances with a little knowledge and a lot of hard work!

Many thanks to all who read, don't forget that if you do comment they come to me first for moderation.


  1. I like the way you build up your story. Great shots of the kingfisher and I especially like your dipper shots.
    Your otter shots are super. It was a privilege to be there and see them.

    Chris and Judy

  2. Loved the kingfisher and otter pictures. Fantastic. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Brilliant Dave, what an blog this one turned out to be. The kingfisher shots were superb, as were the dippers. The icing on the cake, those wonderful few minutes you have shared with us of the otters.


  4. Absolutely superb ,,, such a treat to see otters in Yorkshire again